PROVO, Utah — Kedon Slovis threw for 348 yards and four touchdowns and ran for another score to lead BYU to a 41-16 victory over Southern Utah on Saturday afternoon.
Isaac Rex paced the Cougars with a career-high 112 yards and a touchdown on four catches. It was the first 100-yard game of Rex’s career. BYU (2-0) averaged 7.2 yards per play against the Thunderbirds after struggling on offense in its season opening win over Sam Houston.
“Things started working out for us,” Slovis said. “We kept chugging away. Shooters shoot and eventually the shots start to fall. You just got to keep trusting the process and the calls and the scheme.”
Justin Miller threw for 235 yards and a touchdown to lead Southern Utah. Zach Mitchell finished with a career-high 135 yards on seven catches. SUU (0-2) didn’t find a consistent rhythm on offense until the second half, spoiling the Thunderbirds’ upset chances over their instate foe.
After tossing an early interception, Slovis guided the Cougars on three straight touchdown drives to help BYU carve out a 27-3 halftime lead. Slovis capped each scoring drive with a touchdown pass, highlighted by Darrius Lassiter’s 42-yard catch-and-run after the scoring play started with Slovis reeling in a high snap.
“If you give him time to throw, then he can do it,” BYU coach Kalani Sitake said.
Things started getting out of hand for the Thunderbirds in all phases during the second quarter. Harrison Taggart blocked an SUU punt to set up BYU’s second touchdown drive. Then, Kamden Garrett picked off a pass from Miller at the BYU 30 to set up the Cougars’ fourth touchdown drive just before halftime.
“It’s cliche but guys are flying around,” BYU linebacker Max Tooley said. “Everyone is trying to gang-tackle. That’s what’s going to make a defense aggressive, being willing to impose your will on the other team on every play. Make them quit.”
Southern Utah finally scored its first touchdown on a 33-yard catch by Wooden early in the third quarter. But Tyler Graham missed a 45-yard field goal on the Thunderbirds’ next drive and BYU extended its lead to 34-10 on a 6-yard run from Slovis before the end of the quarter.
“Our kids in our locker room like football more than the teams we’re playing like football,” SUU coach DeLane Fitzgerald said. “We’re going to, come hell or high-water, play for three straight hours.”
Southern Utah: The Thunderbirds scored on their opening drive but struggled to move the ball against BYU’s defense as the first half progressed. SUU had four consecutive punts and a turnover on its next five drives.
BYU: Big plays rescued the Cougars from another sluggish start on offense. BYU had eight passing plays gaining 15 or more yards, with three of those plays resulting in touchdowns.
SPECIAL TEAMS SNAFUS
Mistakes on special teams at critical junctures hurt Southern Utah. BYU scored touchdowns following a blocked punt, a missed field goal, and a muffed punt.
“Special teams did us in,” Fitzgerald said. “I don’t know if we beat them on special teams, I don’t know if we win that football game, but we’re right there with them even-steven at the end.”
RUNNING ON EMPTY
BYU generated just 46 yards on 23 carries. The Cougars gained 10 or more yards on a single running play. LJ Martin, the team’s leading rusher, finished with 27 yards on six carries. Lead back Aidan Robbins tallied six yards on only three carries — all in the first quarter.
“I just want to see the ball carried with more intensity and get more yards,” Sitake said. “We need someone who can carry the ball and do it the right way. We need someone who can block for them and make sure we get more yards. What we got is not good enough.”
Southern Utah is at UC Davis on Saturday.
BYU is at Arkansas on Saturday.